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The Cheese Boutique - Mostly, it is...

Feb. 17th, 2008

02:05 am - The Cheese Boutique

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So, some time ago, leahbobet wanted some Gloucester with Stilton on toast very badly. While looking for ways that this desire could be met within her parameters, I came across this Toronto Life article and thought "this Cheese Boutique place looks interesting, though not useful for the task at hand."

Thanks to a tip from an acquaintance, Leah eventually did get her cheese, and all was well with the world. But there was still that other cheese place... so we decided that it was worth a visit.

For various reasons having to do piffling things like being unable to be in more than one place at a time, the oddity of co-ordinating an outing between two people who under many circumstances are really quite content to stay home, physical ailments, and the unreliability of e-mail, we have yet to actually manage a joint visit.

However, I did manage a quick stop by when I was on my way to exchange a ticket. It being a short visit, and wanting to save the cheese cave itself for when I can go with someone else, I restricted myself to the first floor area. This therefore will not be a review - more a collection of impressions and exclamations.

For example: They have at least eight different varieties of chestnut puree! French, Swiss, I can't remember what else (they didn't have the almost jelly like sliceable variety that we get from Chinatown, but eh.), of differing sweetness and preparedness. ~$17 a can for the 900g Hero without having to drive out an hour-and-a-half to Kitchener-Waterloo, or the waste of the small tubes from Pusateri's in town. They have a good eight linear metres of shelf space of different kinds of mustards and horseradish. They didn't have exactly the one that I'd been looking for since we finished the last jar, but something pretty close I think.

But perhaps a beginning from a calmer place. The building used to be The Cheese Boutique's warehouse before they closed their original location and converted it. It still has the high ceilings with shelves requiring ladders and confined parking area of a place not originally intended for grocery style retail. For all that, they do have a deli counter, along with a small bakery and pastry case. They do also carry some fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs, which, by the way, are among some of the most beautiful and carefully handled that I've seen. But most of the ground floor is devoted to the cheese and butcher counters, and the surrounding wooden shelves containing a very, very wide selection of jars, cans, bottles and boxes that sing or whisper of intriguing culinary possibilities (Too twee? Perhaps, or maybe you have to have been there.).

The layout is sort of closed in such a way that you can't really tell how much there is, or what it consists of, until you are almost right in front of each shelf. For the first time visitor, this can lead to extended periods of time where you experience repeated moments of amazement at high frequency as you turn corners or edge past a ladder or another customer. The effect for me was a bit like reading Charles Stross' Accelerando, but more beautifully dream-like. Speaking of customers, while there are restaurant and hotel chefs who make The Cheese Boutique one of their habitual suppliers of ingredients, and foodies who come in from out of town, it is located in a fairly small pocket of warehouses adjacent to residential zones, so they did look like they got a fair bit of neighbourhood traffic as well.

The music played is nicely eclectic, and definitely not unobtrusive. Not your standard Muzak. At a guess, this being a family business, the music is chosen along the lines of what they want to work to, within the limits of what customers might also find interesting. So in the short time I was there, I heard opera, tango, rock, 60s French pop, and a couple of things that I'm not sure how to classify. I heartily approve.

I'm not sure what else to say in terms of specifics until the more complete review-ish thing that I might do after a proper visit. Generally, I can say that they have a really nice variety of seasonings, spreads, rubs, marinades, syrups, dressings, drizzles, oil, vinegar, pasta, preserves, baking and drinking chocolate, tea, and oh, hmmm. A cautionary note:

Alas, I didn't follow my own general advice against going to a place with lots of interesting food to see but not eat there as a meal, in an afternoon when I've not eaten lunch or breakfast or much of dinner the night before. Therefore I can report that the entirely inappropriate late 'lunch' consisting of pastries was of excellent quality, and that, once again, hungry people should decide how much they are going to spend before entering the store. Granted, I had intended to go in and just look around, but um, nevermind.

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